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K-5 (RS-1U / RS-2)

In 1955 the Kaliningrad (Moscow Oblast) Series Production Plant, which was producing gun turrets for M-4 bomber aircraft and similar equipment, began series production of the first K-5 and K-8 guided air-to-air missiles.

The R-55 (K-55, Object 67), a modification of the K-5 missile, was series-produced throughout the 1967-77 period and quite widely used. By then the Almaz team had given up work air-to-air missiles, and the development of the K-55 missile was assigned to the engineering office at the Kaliningrad (Moscow Oblast) Series Production Plant. This plant was producing aircraft weapons (artillery turrets for M-4 bomber aircraft, sights, etc.), then in 1955 began series production of the first K-5 and K-8 guided air-to-air missiles. Developing the K-55 missile was the first task ever assigned to this team alone (and the only one concerning air-to-air missiles in the history of this team). Currently this engineering office in Kaliningrad, under the name Zvezda, is the leading Russian creator of strategic guided air-to-ground missiles.

During the 1966-168 period the two teams working on air-to-air missiles were renamed -- Bisnovat's OKB-4 team was renamed Molniya and Andrey Lyapin's (who replaced Ivan Toropov in 1961) team was designated Vympel. During later part of the 1960s the Vympel team began working on modifications to the R-55 which resulted in the R-55M missile, with a cooled homing head, a radio rather than optical closing-in igniter, and a more potent warhead.

China's PL-1

The PL-1 [Pili = Thunderbolt, or Pen Lung = Air Dragon] medium range air-to-air missile was a Chinese copy of the AA-1.

The Chinese air force imported the Soviet-designed K-5M radar-guided air-to air missile in September 1958. Characteristically, the K-5M has a slender cone-shaped nose, a fusiform body, and crossed wings and fins. The K-5M can reach mach 2.5 and has can operate at an altitude ranging from 2,5005‑16,500 m. Designed to counter medium bombers, the K-5M has a range of up to 6,000 m.

General Bureau of Aviation Industry of the First Ministry of Machine Building began duplicate production of the K-5M in October 1965, and was redesignated as the PL-1. Factory No.331 was made responsible for the manufacturing of the PL-1 with Factories No. 712, No.212, No. 123, No.245 and Institute No. 18 of the First Ministry of Machine Building respectively were made responsible for duplicating the various components of missile’s Soviet-designed components.

Testing of the PL-1 missile began in November 1959 in the Gobi desert beginning with the launching system of the missile. Testing against drones was initiated on in December the same year ending in success for the developers. Research and development of the PL-1 missile was assisted by the Soviet advisers, which effectively helped give the Chinese initial experience with air-to-air missile development. The first duplicate of the K-5M missile was produced in March 1960.

Testing of the PL-1 missile in July to August 1960 resulted in little success, as the flight tests of the missile failed to hit the target drones due problems in the guidance system. Production of the PL-1 was halted as a result, after the Third Ministry of Machine Building and the Air Force organized investigated the failings of the missile. The Second Branch of the Fifth Research Academy , the Technical Department of the Air Force, the AA Missile Test Range, the Beijing Industrial Institute, the Beijing Aeronautical Institute, Institute No.605, Factories No.712, and No.212 were all involved in the investigation of the PL-1’s technical flaws.

Duplicate production of the PL-1 was resumed in October 1962 after the technical flaws were resolved. Unfortunately for the Chinese, the Soviet Union ceased its assistance in developing the PL-1 and discontinued shipping the needed supplies needed to duplicate the Soviet K-5M. As result, the Chinese resorted to domestically developing and the equipment needed to test the PL-1 missile. Testing was resumed in December 1963, in which after 20 missile tests, two resulted in the downing of two L-17 drones. The missile was certified by the Commission of Certification and Special Weapons in April 1964.


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Page last modified: 02-06-2018 18:25:42 ZULU